According to a survey published late last year in the Journal of Adolescent Health, teens are bullying themselves online as a way to manage feelings of sadness and self-hatred and to gain attention from their friends. For the study, 5,593 middle and high school students from across the U.S., ages 12 to 17, completed a series of questionnaires that asked about their experiences with digital self-harm and cyberbullying.An example:
"We were alarmed to learn that 6 percent of the youth who participated in our study engaged in some form of digital self-harm," says Sameer Hinduja, co-author of the study and a professor of criminology at Florida Atlantic University.
Child psychologist Sheryl Gonzalez-Ziegler of Denver says it's a growing problem among teens whom she counsels. One recent client, an adolescent girl, told Gonzalez-Ziegler that she anonymously cyberbullied herself because, as a gay teen, she felt vulnerable and exposed.
"She set up ghost accounts on Instagram and posted mean comments about herself, saying things like, 'I think you're creepy and gay' and 'Don't sit next to me again,' " Ziegler says.I don't find this surprising at all. I remember learning back in high school psychology about the two types of hero fantasies, the conquering hero and the suffering hero. And while it's still hard to make yourself a conqueror, it is easy to become a suffering hero by conjuring up a crew of online bullies.
"She said these things because she feared being mocked by her peers," the psychologist explains. "She thought their teasing wouldn't be so bad if she beat them to the punch."
For an example of someone who made herself very popular (for a while) this way, see here.